Wednesday Music: Mozart’s Horn Concerto No. 3

I almost didn’t write a post in time for Wednesday Music this week because I had trouble choosing something. I knew I wanted to have Mozart because last Friday, January 27 was his birthday (so I should have had Mozart last week, but I didn’t realize it was his birthday until the day of), but I couldn’t decide what Mozart piece to post. Then I remembered his horn concerti. I love them all but strangely enough, I haven’t posted any of them. So today’s piece is his Horn Concerto No. 3 in E-flat major, K. 447. Here’s a bit about it.

  • Mozart completed it between 1784 and 1787 when he was living in Vienna.
  • He wrote it for his friend Joseph Leutgeb, an accomplished hornist and friend. The score is currently stored at the British Library in London.
  • The work is in three movements and is scored for two clarinets, two bassoons, solo horn, and strings.

Enjoy! The second movement is a particular favorite of mine, so be sure to listen to that (it starts at 7:06). This is an old recording, so the quality isn’t the best, but it’s hard to find a decent one on YouTube!

Or click here to listen on YouTube.

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Wednesday Music: Mozart’s Serenade No. 7

Today’s piece is Mozart’s Serenade No. 7 in D Major, K. 250 (248b), commonly known as the Haffner Serenade. I chose it because it was composed and first performed in 1776, the year the Declaration of Independence was signed. It’s funny to think that this piece was performed in mid-July of 1776, mere weeks after the Declaration was signed across the sea. I wonder if news of the signing had reached Austria at that time. Here’s a bit about it.

  • A member of the Haffner family, Sigmund, commissioned Mozart for this piece so it could be played at his sister’s wedding. This wasn’t the only piece Haffner commissioned. He also commissioned a symphony that later became Symphony No. 35.
  • The piece is in eight movements. The second, third, and fourth have prominent violin solos.
  • There is another piece Mozart wrote that is assumed to go with this one as entrance and exit music. Today, they aren’t usually performed together, though.

Enjoy!

Or click here to see on YouTube.

Wednesday Music: An Aria From Mozart’s ‘The Marriage Of Figaro’

Today we have more Mozart for Wednesday Music, but it’s different than what I usually post. It’s another vocal piece, and if you don’t like opera, never fear. This piece isn’t your usual opera piece. It’s a short aria and it’s very beautiful. Here’s a bit about it.

  • The full name of this aria is “Sull’aria…che soave zeffiretto” which means: “On the breeze… what a gentle little Zephyr.” It makes sense within the context of the opera, if I remember correctly. It’s been a while since I’ve seen Figaro!
  • It is a duettino, or short duet, for two sopranos: the characters Countess Almaviva and her maid, Susanna. It’s scored for an oboe, bassoon, and strings.
  • If you’ve seen the movie The Shawshank Redemption, you’ve probably heard this piece. I won’t spoil the plot by telling you the context… but it’s definitely worth watching.

In my opinion, the two sopranos really make or break this piece. I’ve chosen a video with two of my favorites singing: Kiri Te Kanawa and Ileana Cotrubaș. Enjoy!

Or click here to see on YouTube.

Wednesday Music: Overture From ‘The Marriage Of Figaro’

I know we’ve had lots of Mozart pieces on Wednesday Music, dear readers, but I couldn’t resist posting this one because it’s so upbeat and happy. Things are going great at my job and I’m having a good time editing a novel, so this music, the overture from Mozart’s opera The Marriage of Figaro, is a good theme for this week. Here’s a bit about it.

  • The piece is in the key of D major and the tempo is very, very fast. It starts off very quietly, though, so make sure you listen carefully or else you’ll miss the beginning.
  • Mozart originally put a slower section in the middle of this overture with an oboe solo, but ended up scrapping it. In a weird way, it makes me happy that he wrote something, then took it out because I’ve had to do that with my writing and sometimes I feel bad about needing to rewrite scenes. (Which is silly because everyone has to do that—including Mozart!)
  • This overture is often performed by itself. It works out well for this purpose because it’s self-contained. It doesn’t have any themes from the main opera, nor does it lead directly into the opera’s first act.

Enjoy!

Or click here to see on YouTube.

Wednesday Music: Mozart’s Serenade No. 10

It’s been a while since we’ve had any Mozart for Wednesday Music, right? (I hope I’m right about this because I’m very uninspired to check at the moment.) Today’s piece is Mozart’s Serenade No. 10 for winds in B flat major, K. 361/370a. Here’s a bit about it.

  • This piece is better known by its subtitle “Gran Partita,” even though this subtitle is misspelled and Mozart himself didn’t even write it on the music.
  • The piece has seven movements and is scored for two oboes, two clarinets, two basset horns, two bassoons, four horns, and one double bass. All the other instruments make sense, but the double bass is so random, if you ask me.
  • My favorite movement of this piece is the third, which is an Adagio (a slow movement). In fact, this third movement is in the award-winning movie Amadeus, when Salieri picks up the score and realizes how brilliant it is. He says that he was hearing the “voice of God”* in this third movement. If you want to skip ahead to the third movement, it’s at the 18:15 mark in the video I have embedded below.

Enjoy!

Or click here to see on YouTube.

*The full quotation is: “On the page it looked nothing. The beginning simple, almost comic. Just a pulse. Bassoons and basset horns, like a rusty squeezebox. And then suddenly, high above it, an oboe. A single note, hanging there, unwavering. Until a clarinet took over and sweetened it into a phrase of such delight! This was no composition by a performing monkey! This was a music I’d never heard. Filled with such longing, such unfulfillable longing, it had me trembling. It seemed to me that I was hearing the voice of God.”

Wednesday Music: Mozart’s Piano Adagio in B Minor

I know it is already Thursday where a lot of my readers live, but luckily it’s still Wednesday where I am, so I’ll call this a Wednesday Music post anyway. 🙂 Today’s piece is Mozart’s Adagio in B minor for Piano, K. 540. Here’s a bit about it.

  • Mozart rarely used the key of B minor in his works. In fact, there’s only one other instrumental piece he wrote that is in B minor. It’s the slow movement from the Flute Quartet No. 1, K. 285, a piece I’m actually not familiar with.
  • This piece was written in the last few years of Mozart’s life. He entered it into his catalog of works in 1788. Longtime Wednesday Music readers may recall that he died in 1791.
  • The length of this piece can vary between six and twelve minutes, depending if the performer decides to repeat certain sections. A lot of music has repeats written in it (there are symbols that tell you what to repeat and how many times to do it), but for some reason, ambiguity exists for this piece.

Enjoy!

Or click here to see on YouTube.

Wednesday Music: Mozart’s Sonata For Bassoon And Cello

For Wednesday Music this week, my friends, we return to Mozart. Today’s piece is his Sonata for Bassoon and Cello in B-flat major, K. 292/196c. Here’s a bit about it.

  • Due to the odd arrangement of this piece—choosing to write a duet for bassoon and cello is pretty random, you have to admit—some scholars have thought that Mozart didn’t actually write it. However, others think that he most definitely did write it due to the Mozartian quality of the music. I think he wrote it, too. Besides, Mozart was famous for combining instruments you wouldn’t think to combine (recall his Concerto for Flute and Harp) and making the resulting piece sound really good.
  • Mozart probably wrote the piece in early 1775, when he was nineteen years old and living in Munich. At the same time, he wrote some keyboard sonatas that have similar qualities to this piece, which further proves that this has not been falsely attributed to him.
  • An aristocrat who was also an amateur musician commissioned this piece from Mozart, along with his bassoon concerto and three other bassoon concertos that have since been lost. (Lost music is a crying shame, especially when it was Mozart’s. Let us pause here for a moment to mourn these three bassoon concertos, which I’m sure were excellent.) This aristocrat never paid Mozart for these works, though, which annoys me a lot. Basically, people have been stiffing artists and creative people out of money for centuries now. That’s equally annoying and sad!

Enjoy! It’s a short piece, so you don’t have an excuse not to listen to it. 🙂

Or click here to see on YouTube.

Wednesday Music: Mozart’s Bassoon Concerto in B-Flat Major

Today is a sad day, dear readers. It’s the birthday of one of my good friends. Were he still alive, he would be turning twenty-six. That fact doesn’t just make me sad—it makes me angry because he shouldn’t be dead now. He should still be alive and we should still be having our epic phone conversations. (Thank goodness for free calling to other AT&T cell phones because we used to talk for hours.) We had a lot in common, including a love of classical music. He was a very proficient bassoon player and enjoyed playing today’s piece, Mozart’s Bassoon Concerto in B-flat major, K. 191/186e. Tommy, this edition of Wednesday Music is for you.

Here’s a little bit about the piece.

  • According to some sources, this piece is the most frequently performed and studied for bassoonists. Not only is it very good, but I’m pretty sure bassoonists don’t really have that many pieces to choose from, unfortunately!
  • The second movement contains a theme that also occurs in an aria in The Marriage of Figaro, another Mozart composition.
  • Mozart wrote this piece in 1774, when he was only eighteen years old. It was his first concerto for a wind instrument. Taking into account his age and lack of experience writing for wind instruments makes it even more amazing.

Enjoy!

Or click here to see on YouTube.

Вечная память.

Wednesday Music: Mozart’s Horn Quintet in E-Flat Major

I really wanted to feature a lovely string quintet by Boccherini today, but it was impossible to find a recording of it. The whole point of Wednesday Music is for readers to actually be able to listen to the music I write about, so it would defeat the purpose if I talked about a piece and then had nothing to listen to. Therefore, I ended up choosing a piece by Mozart. Finding recordings of his work is never difficult. Today’s piece is his Horn Quintet in E-flat major, K. 407/386c. Here’s a bit about it.

  • Quintet means a piece for five instruments, so one could reasonably think that a horn quintet is five horns playing together. Alas, that is not correct. A horn quintet is written for a horn (I think what is often called a French horn, but I don’t know much about brass instruments, so don’t quote me on that) and a string quartet, which is normally two violins, a viola, and a cello.
  • However, Mozart decided to shake things up a bit (as he was wont to) when scoring his horn quintet. He wrote it for one horn, one violin, two violas, and a cello. Having two violas in a string quarter is quite nonstandard. Nevertheless, Mozart did it. And it works beautifully.
  • Mozart wrote this piece in 1782, shortly after getting married. He wrote it for a friend named Joseph Leutgeub who was a superb horn player. Apparently only valveless horns existed back in this time, making the piece even more difficult. (I know next to nothing about brass instruments, so that statement doesn’t actually mean much to me. If any brass players read this blog, feel free to chime in.)

Enjoy!

Or click here to watch on YouTube.

Wednesday Music: Mozart’s Concerto For Flute And Harp In C Major

This week’s Wednesday Music snuck up on me. I took a vacation day on Monday, so Tuesday felt like Monday and I almost forgot to write out my post in time! Never fear, though, I managed to get one done. This week’s piece is Mozart’s Concerto for Flute, Harp, and Orchestra in C major, K. 299/297c. Here’s a bit about the piece:

  • Mozart wrote this concerto in 1778, when he was living in Paris for six months. He wrote it for a flutist and his daughter, who played the harp. Unfortunately, the flutist father, who commissioned the piece, only paid Mozart half of the money that was originally agreed upon. Poor Mozart never collected his entire fee!
  • This piece is basically a Sinfonia Concertante, which was popular in Paris at the time. Mozart wrote other Sinfonia Concertantes (or is the plural Sinfonias Concertante?), including one in E-flat major for violin and viola that I’ve talked about.
  • At the time, it was unusual to write a piece for harp and another instrument like this. Furthermore, the harp part is more similar to a piano part than a typical harp part. I’m going to have to take music scholars’ word on this matter because I know basically nothing about the harp!

Enjoy! 🎶

Or click here to watch on YouTube.